Sam Wade exploits the corruption of a fictional Chinese school, Luxury Gardens, in his novel Foreign Teachers. Full of crude humor and mature content, the book focuses on Luxury Gardens through the perspective of Andy Dutton, an American English teacher. Except Andy isn’t an English teacher. In fact, none of the foreign teachers at the school are qualified teachers. Hired by Principal Li for the school’s “look”, Andy, along with the other “foreigners”, is compensated for his time with an extremely high salary and countless benefits. Most of the teachers travel frequently on the weekends and run their classes with no actual learning. Often, they stumble into their classrooms late and hungover, with no one holding them accountable for securing their students’ education. Andy’s good friend Danny, a particularly vulgar character, takes full advantage of Luxury Garden’s lax rules, despite the disservice it does to its students. More concerned with money and maintaining their lifestyles than with the deceit they are asked to perform, the foreign teachers at Luxury Gardens live a life of ease. Chinese teachers, however, are held to impossibly high standards; unlike the foreign teachers, they are expected to work long hours, in addition to after-school activities. With decrepit dormitories and horrible cafeteria meals, the unethical treatment the Chinese teachers receive is shocking.
The school’s leader, Principal Li, has recently hired additional foreign teachers. Eager to be recognized by the International Diploma organization, one which recognizes top schools for their excellence, Li hires Stanford graduate Glenn Whitman. Glenn is immediately popular with the students; resembling a movie star, everyone is fixated with Glenn and his dazzling smile and demeanor. Initially, everything is fine for Glenn at Luxury Gardens. Soon, however, he realizes exactly how fraudulent of a school he is working for and how unethical the Chinese government treats its citizens. He learns plagiarism and cheating are normal at Luxury Gardens, along with falsified textbooks. Furthermore, he learns the so-called school authorities encourage the teachers to falsify grades, all so the school can maintain its “status.” As Andy watches Glenn struggle with the reality of working in China, the reader will soon find out if these men will sink or swim under the immoral actions they are asked to perform.
In addition to addressing the dishonesty of the Chinese authorities, Wade explores topics such as communism, prostitution, political uprisings, and worker rights. This book reminded me of a George Orwell-type novel. Any lovers of his work and similar satirical type books would enjoy this read.
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